Deborah Ng’s ‘Online Community Management for Dummies’–Review
It may be hard to do justice to Deborah Ng’s recent book, Online Community Management for Dummies, in a solitary blog post. The nearly 300 page book is a compendium of tips for the existing social media community manager or wannabe.
As I often do when reading an information-packed book such as this one, I tagged the parts I wanted to remember with post-it notes. At some point I had to stop myself from getting too carried away. This is to say that if you’re looking for a hands-on tool for managing online communities, I believe you’ll find it in Online Community Management for Dummies.
The book provides guidance on the basics of online community management: embracing the community manager’s role, building a productive online community, growing and assessing the health of your community, and taking your community offline.
Deb Ng has worked in the field as a community manager (currently she’s the Director of Community for BlogWorld), and speaks from experience while sharing many salient experiences to drive home the point that there’s a lot to think about when you manage the online community experience for a brand.
There may be times when your fans love you and are flocking to your social networking pages, and other times when you’re confronted with a ton of negative feedback that is quickly spiraling out of control. But regardless of which end of the spectrum you find yourself on, there’s plenty of helpful information along the way.
As you’ll quickly realize when you’re engaged in social media, you will need a combination of strategy and people-power to get the job done well.
Enter social media community manager.
Potential spoiler alert: This post should in no way substitute for reading and digesting the book, but if you’re looking for a cliff-notes version to help you to get focused, we offer the summary below.
Deb shares three you-must-check-out lists for the community manager: essential tasks, must-have skills, and best practices:
- Ten essential community manager tasks according to Deb Ng–
Handling community correspondence, planning events, creating content, troubleshooting, writing and editing, moderating and mediating, providing customer services, serving as a liaison, social networking and marketing.
- Ten must-have skills for community managers–
People skills, a way with words, networking skills, technical abilities, communication skills, multitasking ability, flexibility, focus, drive and business development acumen.
- Ten best practices of a community manager–
staying impartial, having a regular presence in your community and others, responding to inquiries in a timely manner, keeping a positive tone, being supportive of the brand and the community, forging relationships, promoting the community, being passionate about the community, staying on top of trends, and continuing your education.
Recommendations for Community Managers
Deb suggests that the most successful online communities are those that are active with regular updates. Among her recommendations she suggests keeping up with a steady flow of activity: create daily discussion topics, hold regular contests and promotions, respond to comments, host interviews and guest appearances, and encourage community members to talk about themselves.
Helpful Tools for Community Managers
When it comes to finding out what others are saying outside your community, Deb suggests the following tips: set-up Google Alerts, set-up a keyword search via Twitter on applications such as Seesmic, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or via the Twitter search engine, search twitter.com.
She also knows from first-hand experience that you’ll be spending a lot of time on social networks to see who’s been talking about your brand. Deb suggests the following tools: Twitter, Facebook, Google Blog Search, Google Alerts and Yelp.
Keyword Analysis for Community Managers
Deb advocates too for finding the right keywords for your community and content by using your stats, doing your own searching, finding out what keywords competing communities use. Free tools such as Alexa.com, compete.com let you know some of the keywords your competitors use, and using keyword suggestion programs such as Google Adwords, Wordtracker.com and SEObook.com.
Community Data Tracking:
Deb recommends keeping track of community data to see what’s working and what isn’t. Her list for what to track is very complete and includes: traffic to your brand’s blog, blog comments, blog subscribers, traffic to your website via community pages, Facebook memberships, comments on Facebook pages, Twitter followers, responses to Twitter questions, retweets and comments; membership numbers for forum and e-mail groups, response to community promotions and sales as a result of community promotions.
Deb says very clearly “your content and your community are your brand’s most important assets. Don’t lose them by providing inappropriate content.”
By now you can probably appreciate the complexities associated with the community manager role as well as the importance of having a person or team of people who can provide these services for your organization. And frankly, Online Community Management for Dummies is the most comprehensive resource I’ve come across yet on the topic. We think you’ll be wise in making this a go-to-guide for managing your presences on online communities.
What community management experiences can you share? The good, the bad, and even, the ugly! Let us know in the comments below.